There has been a church on the site of the present Southwark Cathedral since the 7th century when a convent was established at the oldest (and then only) crossing point of the River Thames. London Bridge has existed in a many different forms since then and the Christian community beside it has ministered to travellers and pilgrims through the centuries to the present day. Chaucer’s pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales started their journey in Southwark. In 1106 the church was re-founded by Augustinian Canons who also established a hospital which eventually developed into St Thomas’ Hospital, now situated opposite the Houses of Parliament. That ministry of healing and reconciliation forms part of our Cathedral life today.
Our decision to join the Community of the Cross of Nails came out of conversations around the need for reconciliation in our local community, our own neighbourhoods and across the Diocese of Southwark. We are delighted that our sister Cathedral of Bergen, Norway joined CCN at the same time as this strengthens and deepens our long standing relationship and witness. Over the past few decades our parish and the area around the Cathedral has become a vibrant, inclusive and outward looking place and a must-visit destination for lovers of high quality food, the arts and media. This is mirrored in Cathedral life where we seek to be an inclusive and open community, a place of meeting and conversation and a bridge linking different communities and groups.
The terrorist attack on Borough Market and London Bridge in June 2017 brought together our local community in ways that we could never have imagined. Out of fear and hatred blossomed hope, friendship and a desire to build bridges. An annual Grand Iftar during Ramadan co-organised with our local mosque and hosted by the Cathedral is now a regular feature of our life and brings together people of faith and goodwill for the common good. We take part in the annual Bankside Great Get Together, inspired by the Jo Cox Foundation. Our membership of CCN gives us a new energy and direction in our commitment to community building, together with a focus on the issues of youth violence and knife crime.
The deep wounds that have opened up through terrorism, the climate emergency and the Brexit debate show that our country and our fragile world needs hope, reconciliation and healing more than ever. As members of the Community of the Cross of Nails we have a crucial role in bringing people together in peace and love and making our world a kinder and more positive place for human flourishing.
The Revd Canon Michael Rawson – Sub Dean and Canon Pastor